What is post-secondary child support?
Most child support orders in Washington State have provisions for how long a parent is required to pay child support. It is very common for a parent to be ordered to pay support until a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school; whichever comes later. They also commonly have a provision that allows a parent the right to request post-secondary in the future. Post-secondary support is paid after a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school. This is usually to help support a child who is enrolled in college.
How do I request it?
Many child support orders limit the time frame for which a parent can request post-secondary support. Generally, the parent making the request must do so before child support terminates. This is done through the court by filing a Petition for Post-Secondary Support.
RCW 26.09.090 (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=26.19.090) provides the standards for awarding post-secondary support. These include:
- The child must be enrolled in an accredited academic or vocational school, must be actively pursuing a course of study commensurate with the child’s vocational goals, and must be in good academic standing as defined by the institution. The court-ordered postsecondary educational support shall be automatically suspended during the period or periods the child fails to comply with these conditions.
- When considering whether to order support for postsecondary educational expenses, the court shall determine whether the child is in fact dependent and is relying upon the parents for the reasonable necessities of life. The court shall exercise its discretion when determining whether and for how long to award postsecondary educational support based upon consideration of factors that include but are not limited to the following: Age of the child; the child’s needs; the expectations of the parties for their children when the parents were together; the child’s prospects, desires, aptitudes, abilities or disabilities; the nature of the postsecondary education sought; and the parents’ level of education, standard of living, and current and future resources. Also to be considered are the amount and type of support that the child would have been afforded if the parents had stayed together.
Do I need an attorney to request post-secondary support?
While not required, it is wise to consult with an attorney prior to your child turning 18 or graduating from high school. An attorney can help you to prepare the necessary court documents and go to court to present your case.